Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mystery Book Review: The Detective Wore Silk Drawers by Peter Lovesey

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Detective Wore Silk Drawers by Peter Lovesey. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Detective Wore Silk Drawers by Peter Lovesey

A Sergeant Cribb Investigation

Soho Constable (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-524-5 (1569475245)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-524-9 (9781569475249)
Publication Date: October 2008
List Price: $14.00

Review: Peter Lovesey's second novel featuring Sergeant Cribb, The Detective Wore Silk Drawers, originally published in 1971 and newly reissued by Soho Press, is again a sports-themed mystery with the Victorian London detective investigating illegal bare-knuckle boxing.

Sergeant Cribb and his assistant Constable Thackery are called to investigate a headless corpse washed up on the shore of the Thames. Because of the wounds on his hands and the shape of his knuckles, they believe he was a fighter in the underworld of bare-fisted pugilism -- a sport ruled illegal years before. In order to learn more they enlist the help of young, well-built, ex-boxer Constable Jago. Jago continues to work out in the gym at Scotland Yard. Although he has never fought bare-fisted, he’s certain he has been trained by men who have. He could tell by their hands and knuckles. He knows of these “pugs”, men trained in secret mansions or buildings. Mystery not only surrounds the owners of these fighters, but what happens to those who lose. Some believe they go into hiding to keep from being jailed. Still others believe they are killed and their bodies buried. Cribb and his team suspect one such mansion, Radstock Hall, owned by Mrs. Vilbert, is not only her home, but also a training center for pugs. Why else would she have a large gymnasium with every work-out apparatus available to build a fighter’s body? Jago goes undercover and is accepted at Radstock to prepare for a fight against “The Ebony”, already a winning fighter.

But all doesn't go as planned. Mrs. Vilbert is soon murdered, stabbed to death, her take of the money bet on the upcoming fight missing and found under Jago's pillow. Jago, unknown to the local police, is under suspicion but not arrested. He continues to train but he knows he doesn't have a chance against Ebony. The only question is, can Cribb find who's behind the murders before Jago becomes a victim, either in the ring or soon afterward.

Lovesey draws Victorian London in a very descriptive manner, bringing to life the characters and settings in this story, drawing the reader in. The Detective Wore Silk Drawers is not only an engaging tale of a brutal sport but also an interesting take on a powerful woman who runs the training center for the men who participate in it. And not least, it is a strongly plotted mystery that will keep the reader in suspense until the very end. Soho Press is to be commended for re-releasing this outstanding series for a new generation of mystery readers.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Detective Wore Silk Drawers and to Soho Press for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Set in the Victorian era in the world of bare-fisted pugilism -- an illegal sport. Constable Jago is sent, undercover, to Radstock Hall by Sergeant Cribb who suspects that fighters are being trained there and that the losers are then decapitated.

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